صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

degree of judgment, truth is likely to come out between them; and what avails it on whose side it is found, if it is but found? The obstinacy of the writers is a sin, but it is a sin that belongs to themselves; the reader may get good notwithstanding this, sufficient to repay him for all his trouble.


For my own part, Inever imagined myself infallible. I all along thought, though I at the time could see no mistakes in the piece I had written (if I had, I should certainly have corrected them;) yet no doubt other people, who would look at it with different eyes from mine, would discern some; and I trust it has been my desire to lie open to instruction from every quarter. It would be the shame and folly of any man, especially of one of my years, to act otherwise.

I will not pretend to be free from that spirit which easily besets a person engaged in controversy; but thus much I can say, I have endeavoured to read each of my opponents with a view to conviction; and it becomes me to acknowledge that I have not been altogether disappointed. There are some passages, which, if I had the piece to write over again, I should expunge, and others which I should alter: I should endeavour in some places to be more explicit, and in others more upon my guard against every appearance of unkind reflection. There are also some other lesser matters which I shall acknowledge in their place. Justice requires me to say thus much; but as to the main sentiment endeavoured to be established, notwithstanding what has been written, I must say it appears to me unshaken. If in my judgment that had

been overthrown, the attention of the reader should not have been called upon by the present reply.

In the publications of both my opponents* I see different degrees of merit, and for each of their persons and characters I feel a most sincere regard. I doubtless think them both beside the truth; and I suppose think the same of me. I desire to feel every,

they may

*Both your opponents; but why not reply to Dr. WITHERS? Because his letter appears to me to contain nothing like an an. swer to that against which it is written. The utmost I can gather that looks any thing like evidence, may be summed up in a very small compass. “There can be no duty, it is said, without a voluntary compact. If a compact with God cannot be found on holy record-if it be evident that man is destitute of the powers essential to the existence of such a compact, it cannot be his duty to believe." (P. 21, 26) It might have been added with equal propriety, nor to do any thing else which is enjoined him. But I would ask, to whom are we unprofitable servants, as doing no more than our DUTY; to men with whom we made compacts, or to God? If.Dr. W.'s reasoning is just, it is not the duty of children to be subject to their parents.


Again; Men are not all bound to have an equal "number of ideas, to believe without evidence, examinatión, or beyond their natural capacities." (40, 59, 73, 76.) This is very true; neither is there any thing in the treatise which Dr. W. has opposed, that asserts the contrary.

I had said, If men are not obliged to approve of what God reveals, they may be right in disapproving it. Much is said to expose this to ridicule. It is said to be "either an identical proposition, or such an arbitrary combination of words as, it seems, will prove any thing." (85, 86.) It is not the first, unless a ne. gative and a positive idea are necessarily the same. Christ declared, saying, "He that is not with me, is against me." This is as much an identical proposition as that in question, and might be treated in the same manner. If there is any mistake

degree of candor towards all that differ from me, which a person ought to feel towards those whom he believes to be mistaken: and this I think should go to such a length as to entertain the most sincere good will towards their persons, and to put the most favourable construction that can in justice be put upon their supposed mistakes.-But, after all, I believe truth to be

in the argument, it must lie in my taking it for granted upon Christ's testimony just quoted, that though there is an evident difference between a negative and positive idea, yet in this case the difference is not such as to admit a possibility of a medium. Every one knows there are cases in which a medium between ideas of that description may have place; as between my "not watching my neighbour's house, and breaking it open." In that case it is not my duty to do either; but unless such a medium could be affirmed between not approving and disapproving of what God reveals, the argument still retains its force, and the syllogistical parade must appear to be only a play of words.

Dr. W. had given us reason to expect something very considerable against the distinction of natural and moral inability; but what does it all amount to? Why, ability or inability is not, strictly speaking, predicable of the will, but of the man. (89,90) I have looked over what I have written on that subject, and cannot find that I have any where predicated inability of the will, but of the man, through the perversion of his will. Be that, however, as it may, Dr. W.'s reasoning is of no force. An idle servant is enjoined a piece of labour-he replies, I cannotdo it-he is told his inability lies in his will-he turns metaphysician, and gravely assures his master that inability is not predicable of the will, but of the man; and therefore insists upon it that he is blameless?

If Dr. W. means no more than this, that when the terms ability or inability are applied to the volitions of the mind they are not used in a literal, but in a figurative sense, I do not know any person that will dispute what he says. At the same time it

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

important; and so long as I consider the belief of it to be every person's duty, according to his natural capacities and opportunities to understand it, Icannot subscribe to the innocence of error. God is the governor of the mind as well as of the actions. He governs the former by rule as well as the latter; and all deviations from that rule must arise either from its being not

ought to be observed that these terms are applied to what de pends upon the volitions of the mind, though it be in a figurative sense; and that both in scripture and in common life. It is as common to say of a person of a very covetous temper, that he is incapable of a generous action, as it is to say of a person who has lost the use of his faculties, he is incapable of acting at all. And thus the scriptures apply the terms-It is as expressly said of Joseph's brethren, that they could not speak peaceably to him, as it is said of Zacharias, that he was dumb, and could not speak to the people when he came out of the temple.

The ideas in these cases are really and essentially distinct; and so long as they continue to be expressed both in scripture and in common conversation, by the same word, if we would understand what we speak or write; a distinction conce cerning the nature of inability, amounting to what is usually meant by natural and moral, becomes absolutely necessary.

Dr. W. instead of overthrowing this sentiment, has undesignedly confirmed it: for though he can excuse a want of love to God; yet if any thing is directed against himself, the case is altered. Our Lord speaking of the Pharisees, and their blasphemous reproaches against him, says, "How can ye being evil, speak good things?" Now according to the theory of this writer, such an inability must sufficiently excuse them. But if a Pharisee speak evil of him, he is grievously provoked. Who these Pharisees are, and what they have said of Dr. W. I know not. I only ask, is it not a pity but his philanthropy could excuse those who reproach him, as well as those who dishonour God?

[ocr errors]

sufficiently level to our capacities, or from inattention, prejudice, or some other criminal cause.

I am far from wishing to impute blame to another in any case, farther than I am willing, on a similar supposition, to take it to myself. I am liable to err as well as others; but then I apprehend, so far as I da

Philanthropy is doubtless an amiable temper of mind, when regulated by rules of righteousness; but there is a sort of love which the language of inspiration deems hatred. If I were merely as a member of civil Society, to visit a number of convicts under a righteous sentence of death-and if, instead of persuading them of the goodness of the laws, which they had violated, of the great evil of their conduct, and of the equity of their punishment, and conjuring them to justify their country, and sue for mercy-If, I say, instead of this, I should go about to palliate their crimes, and assure them that the governor by whose laws they were condemned was the author of all their misfortunes-that though I believed some of them, at least, must certainly suffer; yet I must acknowledge I could see no jus tice in the affair, there being no proportion between the punishment and the crime-I might call myself the friend of mankind, and give what flattering titles I pleased to what I had been doing, but impartial spectators would deem me an enemy to truth and righteousness, an enemy to my country; yea, an enemy to the very persons whose cause I espoused.

But with the principles of Dr. W. I have no concern. There is reason to hope they are too undisguised to gain credit with serious minds. I am under no obligation to refute them; none, however, at present. Before the sentiments of any writer are entitled to a refutation, it is requisite that he pay some regard, at least, to sobriety and truth.

Whether Dr. W. can acquit himself of wilful and known falsehood, I cannot tell; but this I know, he has in a great many instances, imputed sentiments to me of which I never thought, and * Alluding to the title of his book.

« السابقةمتابعة »